How to Cycle for Leg Toning

Follow proper form to tone legs while cycling.
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It’s no accident that the act of putting in a lot of effort without guaranteed success is called “leg work.” As a fitness routine, leg work can be tedious, because you can do a lot for your legs and not see the results you’d expect. If you want to tone your legs, one of the best ways to do it is to hit the road on a bicycle. The low-impact routine is easy on the joints and provides a cardiovascular workout.

Posture and Form

    Step 1

    Adjust the bicycle seat to the right height. The angle at which you sit impacts how well you tone your legs while you ride. To adjust the seat, loosen it and then straddle the bicycle. With one of your legs, set a pedal to the bottom, then stand on it and slightly bend your knee. Adjust the seat so it is right underneath where your bottom is while in this position.

    Step 2

    Pedal on the balls of your feet, not the arches or heels. This works the medial and lateral sections of your calf muscles. Working these areas will help you tone your legs more effectively.

    Step 3

    Arch your back and lean forward over the handlebars. This makes your legs do most of the work as you ride, and it helps you keep a steady pace.

Cycling Program

    Step 1

    Set up a cycling schedule. Plan to ride at least three days a week, but schedule a couple of rest days in between the more difficult rides. You’ll do three different types of riding each week. One day will include steady, continuous riding for a set amount of time. Another day will include short bursts of riding at top speed, interspersed with slower pedaling. Complete a set distance with no benchmarks for speed or time on your third-day ride.

    Step 2

    Ride at a steady pace for 20 minutes on flat, level grade for your Day 1 training. Each week, increase the the amount of time you spend cycling by 10 to 15 minutes. When you build up enough endurance, seek out tougher areas to ride through, such as hills and valleys, mountain roads and rural trails.

    Step 3

    Pedal at a casual pace for five minutes to warm up on your Day 2 ride. At the five-minute mark, pedal as fast as you can for 90 seconds and then go back to a casual pace. Repeat this cycle for 30 minutes. Each week, increase the time that you go all-out by 30 seconds. When you can ride for the full 30 minutes at a fast pace, increase your overall amount of riding time.

    Step 4

    Ride for a set distance and don’t worry about how long you ride or how fast you go for your Day 3 ride. To start, set a distance you think is challenging but doable. For beginners, try five miles. If you’re an experienced cyclist, go farther. Each week, ride farther and try to push yourself.


    • Keep your legs pedaling as much as you can, especially when going uphill. This is how you’ll tone your calves and thighs. It’s okay to coast occasionally, but try to keep your feet moving throughout each ride.


    • Don’t over-train. If you’re too sore to ride following a rest day, take another rest day to recover.

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